Alan Pardew predicted that this latest north-east derby might be decided by a clever substitution and he was proved right. Unfortunately for Newcastle United's manager his opposite number, Gus Poyet, made it, his introduction of Fabio Borini looking inspired when the Liverpool loanee scored thewinner to offer Sunderland much-needed Premier League succour.

Played against a background of swirling wind and teeming rain, their first league win of a sorry season made Poyet's home managerial debut one to savour, although it is unlikely to be a memory relished by Pardew. Newcastle, supposedly anxious to atone for their 3-0 defeat by Paolo Di Canio's side at St James' Park in April, underachieved and Mike Ashley, their owner, is likely to be asking his manager all sorts of awkward questions.

"I'm sure they'll hate me even more," joked Poyet who, as a Chelsea and Tottenham player was dubbed "the scourge of Newcastle" by Sir Bobby Robson after invariably scoring against the Tynesiders. "We need to pass the ball better. But at least we won a game. I feel like I played it myself; I'm too tired to celebrate."

Within five minutes the ground echoed to choruses of "Steven Fletcher, he scores when he wants". Ankle and shoulder injuries have deprived Sunderland of Fletcher's attacking potency in recent months but, finally fully fit again, the Scotland striker reminded everyone of Newcastle's vulnerability at set pieces.

His goal began with Adam Johnson's corner. It was played short to Sebastian Larsson, who passed back to Johnson, whose floated, far-post cross eluded the outjumped Paul Dummett, allowing Fletcher to head beyond Tim Krul.

That concession represented a tough baptism for Dummett, the young, homegrown Newcastle left-back making his first Premier League start out of position at centre-half.

Watching Krul sprawl to splendidly repel a subsequent Fletcher half-volley, it seemed hard to credit Sunderland had only one point from eight games but at least Ellis Short is prepared to accept responsibility.

It has become increasingly rare for powerful men to admit publicly to mistakes, so hats off to Sunderland's owner for apologising to fans. This admission related to his appointment and fairly swift dismissal of Di Canio. "The club has been in turmoil," acknowledged Short. "I have to take the blame for that. Clearly at least one of the decisions I made over the last several months was the wrong one. We could never have imagined in our worst nightmare being in the position we are now in."

In time Short might not need to be quite so hard on himself. Change was desperately needed and, even if Di Canio went the wrong way about implementing it, his reforms have arguably made Poyet's task appreciably easier. Maybe one day a parallel with Arsenal's past will be identified, with Di Canio regarded as Bruce Rioch to Poyet's Arsène Wenger.

Back in the present, Newcastle were having too many nightmarish moments. Growing Tyneside frustration manifested itself when Cheik Tioté escaped unpunished for shoving an arm into Larsson's face and again as Yohan Cabaye was booked for a knee high tackle on Jack Colback.

Pardew's team, often conceding possession far too cheaply, found Colback and Lee Cattermole extremely difficult opponents in central midfield, this outstanding duo ensuring the usually dangerous Loïc Rémy barely touched the ball. Similarly Hatem Ben Arfa, deployed at the centre of Pardew's attacking trinity in a 4-3-3 formation, was forced ever deeper and frequently found himself second guessed by Cattermole.

Pardew provoked an at least temporary improvement at half-time, opting to mirror Poyet's 4-4-2 in a rejig which involved replacing Moussa Sissoko with Papiss Cissé and relocating Ben Arfa to the left.

Ben Arfa's low cross shot precipitated the equaliser, Mathieu Debuchy nipping in at the far post – dodging Johnson en route – to divert the ball past Keiren Westwood. It prompted a rare smile from Pardew which vanished when Borini's superlative, swerving 20-yard shot arced imperiously towards the top corner following Jozy Altidore's adroit lay-off.

Arriving at the end of a move sparked by a disputed free-kick it perhaps represented divine retribution for Ashley's banning of three local papers following measured coverage of a recent fans' protest march against his stewardship. Pardew looked suitably embarrassed as he refused to answer their journalists' questions on Sunday and so he should be.

Man of the match Jack Colback (Sunderland)